New laws to protect family violence victims during COVID-19 pandemic
The McGowan Government has moved swiftly to bring into force important laws to protect victims of family and domestic violence, who are at an increased risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Urgent amendments to the Sentencing Act 1995, the Sentence Administration Act 2003, the Bail Act 1982 and the Restraining Orders Act 1997 passed through both Houses of State Parliament today.
The changes include:
- allowing the court to impose a requirement that an offender be subject to electronic monitoring under Conditional Suspended Imprisonment Orders and Intensive Supervision Orders;
- permitting a judicial officer to include, as a home detention bail condition, a direction that an accused be subject to electronic monitoring;
- improving access to restraining orders, including enabling restraining order applications to be lodged online;
- creating a separate offence for breach of a family violence restraining order, increasing the penalty to $10,000 from $6,000 and extending the limitation period for prosecuting breach of restraining order offences to two years; and
- allowing the Family Court and Children’s Court to issue interim restraining orders on an ex-parte basis, in the same way the Magistrates Court is permitted to do so.
These important reforms will enable the justice system to better respond to the challenges facing victims of family violence during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The State Government recognises that the current crisis creates a situation of heightened risk for victims of family and domestic violence, and that’s why we’ve moved swiftly to pass urgent legislative reforms to respond to the situation,” said Attorney General John Quigley.
“The pandemic is likely to have implications on the capacity of our justice system, for example, employing its normal in-person and manual methods of operation such as lodging of restraining order applications.
“These important reforms will enable us to better respond to the challenges faced by the justice system and the risk to victims of family violence in the context of this pandemic.”
Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence Minister Simone McGurk said, “We know that people experiencing family and domestic violence are at increased risk when they are isolated from family and the community, and are unable to leave or put other protective measures in place.
“Regrettably, we have seen reports from overseas and other States that warn not only are victims at increased risk of family violence during this pandemic, but perpetrators are using the virus as a method to control and coerce victims.
“In difficult times, stress can in some cases result in people behaving in unacceptable ways. However, no matter what is going on in the world, violence i s never acceptable.
“I want to thank all sides of politics for coming together to pass these urgent reforms and show victims of family and domestic violence that they are not alone – particularly during these exceptionally challenging times.”